A few dozen seniors and some shaken pets were huddled on a downtown Halifax sidewalk late yesterday morning after a fire forced the evacuation of their apartment building.

 

The fire at the Joseph Howe Manor on Victoria Road started in resident John Blanchard’s fifth-floor apartment around 11:15 a.m. Firefighters were able to contain it before it could spread.

 

Blanchard has limited mobility and uses a wheelchair, but managed to escape with help from a neighbour who pushed him and his Pomeranian, Cuddles, onto an elevator.

 

“The end of my cigarette fell off, and I hadn’t noticed it,” Blanchard explained as he sat barefoot near the building’s front entrance. “All of a sudden, the place starts to fill with smoke. I threw water on it, but it wasn’t enough.”

According to Halifax Regional Fire spokesman Dave Meldrum, there was some smoke damage to the interior of the building, but no one was injured.

“Given the nature of this building as a seniors’ residence, some of the firefighters kept the residents in their apartments depending on their mobility challenges,” Meldrum said. “We did designate one of the stairwells and did remove some of the residents that way.”

Meldrum would not confirm if a cigarette had started the fire.

Debbie McKenna, who works in the building as a homecare worker, said she and her elderly client were the first ones out when they heard the alarm.

“When something like this happens most of (the residents) stay in their apartment,” McKenna said. “They don’t take it seriously because the alarm goes off so often.”

Blanchard, a retired lawyer, has lived in the 175-unit building for about eight years. He said he would stay at a friend’s house until his apartment is repaired.